Today was the 2nd annual Scripps PRSSA Diversity Panel! Four panelists from Ohio University came to speak about how the communication, public relations and journalism industries can improve our current media landscape.
Earl Hopkins – President of the Black Student Communication Caucus and Editor-in-Chief of Black ThOUght.
Kris Perez – President of Scripps Hispanic Network.
Mara Diaz – Director of Member Relations for the OU chapter of the Association for Women in Communication, President of the OU Spanish Club and the social media strategist for the office of International Student and Faculty Services.
delfin bautista – Director of the LGBT Center and adjunct lecturer for the WGSS and Social Work programs. Faculty advisor for Latino/a Student Union and SHADES.
Insights from the panel:
Question: Can you each talk about the specific ways you have advocated for change on campus and off as well as some of the challenges you have faced as an organization?
- delfin has worked with The Post and other campus publications to improve the inclusivity of pronoun usage and grammar in their reporting. They also spoke on the importance of being clear when LGBT interviewees are on or off the record.
- Earl has helped with spearheading the 90 Minutes series through the Scripps school. He is challenging to entice people to come to events like that where diverse perspectives are being shared.
- Kris has met with Dean Tittswoth of the Scripps school to talk about recruitment efforts for Hispanic students. His organization has gone to leadership conferences to learn tools that they can bring back in order to address issues and find solutions.
- Mara emphasizes personal empowerment and getting people more involved and listening.
Question: On a broader level, can you speak on representation in media in general?
- Kris believes he has seen a bigger push and small improvements in media. But, he feels there is a lot of progress to be made with getting representation in the newsroom.
- delfin spoke about how often diversity and inclusion is an afterthought rather than at the forefront of decision making. The recent Backdrop women’s issue included pieces on trans women. The article interviewed an individual who was both a trans woman and person of color. It is important to get people to think about issues from an intersectional perspective.
- Earl expressed that there are moments when people from under-represented communities get to share unique stories in the media, but there is more room for people like that to be heard overall.
- Mara talked about not only needing a representative from one group but from multiple people from within that group.
Question: Could you talk about the lack of inclusion in media and how we can improve that?
- delfin described that for awhile, “A-list” gays on television, such as on Will and Grace became the “image” of LGBT people in society. In more recent years actual trans people have been playing trans people in television shows, which is a good improvement.
- Mara praised shows like Jane the Virgin because it portrays a grandmother, a middle-aged woman and a college-aged woman living life together. It is cool to see representation like that, because sometimes in media, ageism ends careers.
- Earl described the increased acceptance of black beauty in multiple forms in the media.
- Kris praised the movie Coco because it was a great stepping stone to accurately and ethically representing Latino/a culture.
Question: What do each of you think about diversity on OU’s campus and how does that affect representation in student media?
- Kris pointed out that OU campus struggles with diversity overall. He said a lot of the effort to improve this issue falls onto student organizations.
- Earl talked about the need for real power and support from the administration to improve diversity and inclusion.
- Mara noted that “diversity” has become a buzz word and students sometimes shut down those kinds of conversations. It is important to hear new perspectives from people that have grown up differently than us. There are people who have experienced issues that many people want to help improve, we should talk to those people.
- delfin explained that if the students don’t see themselves represented in the faculty, why would they come here? If all people of color are assistant directors or assistant professors, that’s great, but it would be better to for that diversity to reach all areas of the university. President Nellis has committed to elevating diversity and inclusion on campus. The OHIO administration is beginning to lift up the campus diversity offices with more resources and delfin is excited about the future of these efforts.
Question: What can students involved in media-related majors do to make positive changes in the industry when they leave this school?
- delfin encouraged continuously learning and not being paranoid about making mistakes. Learning from them and using them to grow is a good thing. They also said to use your future platforms to challenge people to see new perspectives, because your voice will carry weight when a lot of others won’t.
- Mara said to speak up when you get that feeling that says, “I feel like I need to say something about this.”
- It is frustrating to be misquoted in publications, and underrepresented groups can speak up about that, but it is already out there.
- Tokenism is prevalent in campus media.
- If no one talks to you, as a member of a certain group, then their story about that group will not be accurate or fair.
- One way to combat the distrust in the media is by encouraging people to admit their mistakes.
- A journalist should think about whether or not they are telling the same story that has already been told repeatedly. For example, a story about two women or about two black people does not need to pit one of them against the other.
- Being invited to speak at panels like the Scripps PRSSA diversity panel is helpful for these organizations as they work to educate more people.
This conversation is important and Scripps PRSSA intends to continue the conversation about why diversity and ethical representation lead to a better media landscape!